The bad penny

John Thompson, still in the legislature, continues to owe $2,700 in outstanding court fines.

Controversial Minnesota State Representative John Thompson (D-St. Paul) has fallen out of the news lately but remains a sitting member of the state’s legislature. In his last media appearance, he agreed to pay $100 toward the $316 in fines that had accumulated against a contentious July 4th traffic stop.

However, it turns out that the $316 is just the tip of the iceberg. Thompson has tallied $2,713 in unpaid fines and court costs associated with 21 separate incidents dating back over 18 years. These dollar amounts are all recorded on state-maintained databases, accessible to the general public.

Thompson has accumulated unpaid fines in five different jurisdictions, with the majority being in Ramsey County. The fines cover everything from disorderly conduct, to speeding, to minor parking violations.

Until recently, the total figure topped $3,000. Last month, at the same time he paid the $100, Thompson entered into a payment plan for a number of other traffic citations in Ramsey County. These recent payments have reduced his outstanding total to the current amount.

The July 4th traffic stop triggered a series of scandals surrounding Thompson, including accusations of domestic violence made against him before he entered public life, and questions about whether he actually lives within his St. Paul district. When pulled over on July 4th, he produced a Wisconsin driver’s license. The official police report on the incident lists a St. Paul address for Thompson outside of his House district.

Included in the unpaid fine totals is a $382 charge stemming from a domestic assault case in 2006. Washington County wrote off the amount as uncollectible in 2016. The same is true for nine other cases more than a decade old where the courts have written off the amounts due as collection agencies failed to obtain full payment from Thompson.

A $278 amount stemming from a 2019 trespassing case also remains uncollected, despite the massive amount of coverage around the July 2021 court trial in the case.

Thompson is not always a dead-beat. Significantly, in a 2004 arrest for alleged terroristic threats, which he pleaded down to a disorderly conduct charge, Thompson paid the resulting $143 fine in full within a year. There are several other traffic-related incidents where Thompson paid his fines and court costs in a full, timely manner.

Still, there are currently 11 active cases where Minnesota courts are officially seeking payments from Thompson.

Thompson first gained media attention in August 2020 when he led a Black Lives Matter protest at the suburban home of the then-head of the Minneapolis police union, at which he shouted obscenities, made violent threats, and beat an effigy of the police union leader’s wife with a stick. At the time, Thompson was already a candidate for the state House.

Back in September, Thompson was expelled by his peers in the MN House Democrat-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party caucus. His official page on the MN House of Representatives website lists his party affiliation as “Independent,” but he appears to have retained his four committee assignments. The first-term representative has said he will continue to serve. Despite calls for his resignation, Thompson has no intention of giving up his $48,250 legislative salary or forgoing his $66 daily per diem. Perhaps he could return some of that taxpayer money to the treasury to pay off his outstanding fines. We won’t hold our breath.